A Russian tycoon who is presumed to have paid £28,000 for a portrait of Margaret Thatcher in a fund raising auction will get his money back – not because there is anything wrong with the portrait, or that he does not want it, but because the Conservative Party should not have let him buy it.
Money raised for a political party in an auction counts as a political donation under electoral law. The law does not allow parties to accept donations from foreign nationals, and puts the onus on them to check the source of any money they receive.
The black and white painting was bought during the Conservatives’ summer party in July last year. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism spotted that the registered purchaser was an IT firm based on the Park Place estate, near Henley on Thames. That estate was bought by a former president of the Bank of Moscow, Andrei Borodin, for £140 million – making it, reputedly, the most expensive home in Britain.
The firm was registered as being run by Mr Borodin’s personal assistant. Borodin is seeking asylum in Britain after falling out with the Putin regime, but is not a UK citizen. Nor is his former P.A. The bureau challenged the donation, and the Electoral Commission has ordered the Tories to hand the money back.
The Labour MP Sheila Gilmore is now demanding full closure of all contacts between the Tories and the fugitive tycoon. “This raises serious questions over the Tory Party’s funding,” she said. “The Tories' re-election campaign is bankrolled by a dwindling group of elite donors. We need more transparency over Tory funding."